This Lithuanian thriller doesn’t pull its punches in one of the grittiest, and at times, unpleasant films of the year. And frankly, it’s all the better for it.
Corruption, neo-noir aesthetics, and an effective and confusing mystery constitute this romp into the violence of the Soviet legacy. When high ranking officials start being killed in the most gruesome of ways, the main characters, all of whom are ex-KGB agents, begin to notice a pattern and fear for their safety. Speaking to the way historical espionage disseminates into modern society, this is a film that deals, in rather sadistic terms with the spill over from the Soviet era. Whilst far from a perfect film, good twists, engaging, sympathetic characters, and enough bloody action to last a lifetime, makes this one of the most exciting and enjoyable films at MANIFF 2022. Seems to me like everything we didn’t get in the latest Batman instalment.
But oh god the audience I watched it with. If nothing else, this short article is going to be a moan about how irritating people can be. Picture an empty cinema ten minutes before the film kicks off. I’m settled very comfortably in my seat. I’m loving the leg room. Great position in front of the screen. And in the middle of all this bliss, a group of five film goers saunter up to me and declare “these are our seats!” I drag myself out of my cinematic stupor and peer around. Barely a person in sight. Better seats for them right behind me. And I’m being aggressively ousted from this position of total relaxation.
Fast forward an hour or so. Onscreen are some of the most violent and clear images of murder, rape, and torture – heavy stuff for a Monday evening. And out of nowhere my wonderful neighbours, who earlier had claimed a monopoly over row F, started cackling. I mean actually uncontrollable laughing. I didn’t get what was funny then and I still don’t now. Were they amused by my miserable annexation to the end of the row or was there just something hilarious about how that man lit a living person on fire?
You may label this article petty. I’d probably agree. Cool film but awful audience.